Last June my friend and I took a much anticipated trip to Rome and Florence. We met as au-pairs in Milan about five years ago and try to get back to our favourite country as often as we can. The night I got back from our holiday, I felt the post Italian blues so strongly, that I desperately searched around for films, books, food, anything! that would transport me back to the wonderful country that I love so much. I was so lucky to find The Enchanted April. The dreary, grey and depressing London in the first part of the book expressed perfectly how I felt about being back.
Four women, all strangers, put their money together to escape their unsatisfying London lives for the month of April. They are all very different characters who are unhappy or unsatisfied in some way; excitable Mrs Wilkins, kindhearted Mrs Arbuthnot, grumpy Mrs Fisher and the beautiful Lady Catherine.
When April finally arrives and the foursome find themselves in the enchanting setting of the small Italian castle, a magical transformation gradually begins to take place. Although they don’t all hit it off immediately, it doesn’t take long for the peaceful surroundings to get under their skin. At this point, I think it helps to be in love with Italy, as Elizabeth von Arnim does seem to get rather carried away with the descriptions and the loveliness and the beauty and the joy! The transformation hits Mrs Wilkins first, and I have to say that I have felt moments like this in Italy before;
“”Oh!” cried Mrs. Wilkins.
All the radiance of April in Italy lay gathered together at her feet. The sun poured in on her. The sea lay asleep in it, hardly stirring. Across the bay the lovely mountains, exquisitely different in colour, were asleep too in the light; and underneath her window, at the bottom of the flower-starred grass slope from which the wall of the castle rose up, was a great cypress, cutting through the delicate blues and violets and rose-colours of the mountains and the sea like a great black sword.
She stared, Such beauty; and she there to see it. Such beauty; and she alive to feel it.”
This really is an enchanting book, with it’s joyful descriptions of a place that sounds like heaven. However, I think some people would find it a bit too romantic and over the top. Being such a lover of everything Italian, and having just returned from a fantastic holiday there, I felt just like Mrs Wilkins – in a constant daze of happiness. The book could have done with being much shorter – if I had been in any other mood, there’s a chance that even I would have become impatient with the descriptions.
If you would like to whisk yourself off to a beautiful Italian castle but don’t have the time or money, you might want to try reading this instead!